Updated Nov 3, 2022
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Nothing enriches and livens up a yard or garden like vibrant, radiant flowers. Maintaining these delicate, aromatic plants is one of the most gratifying hobbies a homeowner can take up. But each species of flower has its peculiarities and requirements, so keeping a lush assortment can be challenging. This problem becomes compounded for beginners as mastering the basics alone can be time-consuming and challenging. To help lessen this floral learning curve, we’ve compiled a list of essential tips and tricks to help grow flowers in your yard or new garden.
Understanding soil is the first step in becoming a better gardener; it’s the literal foundation on which your garden will be built. Soil is a complex and broad topic, the entirety of which is beyond the scope of this article. But, what follows are a few essential soil qualities to nurture when starting your flower bed.
A good indicator of a soil’s viability and health is its texture. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of soil: sandy, clay, and loam. Sandy soil is very loose and has drainage issues. Clay soil is extremely dense and thick, retaining too much moisture and too dense for new plants to grow. Loam is the ideal soil, as it comprises equal parts sand, silt, and clay. Loam is soil that possesses a good crumb or texture. It should be similar to cookie crumble, be loose, and have a fluffy, granular feel. If your soil’s texture isn’t ideal, don’t fret because you can’t change it. Instead, you should adjust the type of plants and flowers you’re going to grow to match the texture of your soil.
Soil pH is the measurement of a soil’s acidity. Some plants prefer highly acidic soil, while others prefer soil with little to no acid. Generally speaking, flowers prefer as neutral a pH as possible. While there are many DIY guides online for determining a soil’s pH level, they can be tricky and prone to human error. Instead, consider some commercial products for testing a soil’s pH level:
As a general rule, adjusting soil pH for most at-home flower beds isn’t recommended, as it can be complicated and time-consuming. However, if your plants are sensitive to soil pH, or your pH is particularly extreme, you may need to do so. Most plant species excel in soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0, with 7.0 being pure neutral. To raise a soil’s pH, in other words, lower its acidity, you need to add substances like iron sulfate. Sphagnum peat is the best and easiest way to do this for at-home gardens. Apply a 1 to 2-inch layer of sphagnum peat to the top foot of soil in your garden, then slowly work the peat into the soil. Raising a garden’s acidity is much easier than lowering it, thankfully. Many acidifying fertilizers on the market work well in adding acidity – look for fertilizers with ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, and monoammonium phosphate. Remember that adjusting soil pH is a long-term process that may require you to apply acidifying or de-acidifying materials continuously.
One of the critical elements of good soil is its ability to drain water efficiently. If your soil is too dense, it will retain moisture for too long. Overly wet soil can lead to numerous problems such as root rot or attracting pests. Soil with good drainage should be loose, fluffy, and not too dense or clumped together. If your soil is too thick or lacks proper moisture retention, adding materials like mulch, compost, or pyrite will help.
Weeding is a constant and tedious chore that is unfortunate for all gardens and flower beds. Weeds choke out your plants, absorb nutrients, steal moisture, and look unsightly, so keeping them out is necessary. Here are some of the best practices for removing and reducing the spread of weeds:
Choosing the right flowers for a bed or yard can feel overwhelming. But it’s also the most satisfying part of the process. There is no shortage of options, but you should consider elements like your soil, humidity, and seasonal temperature when picking out your flowers.
Once you understand the factors that can limit or otherwise impact your choices, you should consider what you have to choose from. All garden plants can be broken down into several categories: annuals, biennials, perennials, vines, shrubs, bulbs, decorative grasses, and trees. There are technically more to this list, but this is the majority of the types of plants you will come across in any greenhouse or garden center. Each category serves a different purpose in your garden or bed composition and should work in concert to complement one another. Choosing the right plants comes down to understanding each one’s look and function.
Choosing the right location for your plants serves more than a decorative purpose. Flowers require the right amounts of direct sun and shade, so their placement is crucial for their health. For plants that require direct sunlight, position them out in the open, away from taller plants like trees and shrubs. Conversely, for plants that need shade, consider placing them alongside bushes, beneath trees, or along the sides of your home or fence.
Before you can plant flowers, prepping your garden bed is necessary. The soil needs to be the right consistency for your flowers to thrive. Before mixing the soil, you need to ensure it’s damp enough. Dry soil will be difficult to till, and forcing it can damage the soil structure, while too wet soil will compact beneath you. The soil should be moist, but not so wet that it leaves water on your tools. The ideal moist soil should be workable while still crumbling when dropped or shifted. Using tools like a trowel, garden fork, tiller, or spade, turn over and loosen the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. While doing so, you can mix in additional elements such as peat, fertilizer, clippings, or organic matter to improve soil quality.
Watering plants is an art form and requires time and practice with your plants to get the timing right. Most flower gardens need 1 to 2 inches of water per week – this amount can vary slightly depending on soil retention and the plants being watered. You should water one to two times per week, thoroughly watering your plants. It’s better for drainage and retention to water fewer times but more thoroughly. Always aim for the plant’s base, avoiding foliage and flowers to prevent mold growth. And finally, only water in the early morning or late evening, as watering in the full sun leads to evaporation.
Growing flowers is a labor of love. It takes time, research, and dedication to make your yard or garden a vibrant landscape of color and beautiful flowers. After all the mud, sweat, and weeds are cleared away, it’s always well worth it. You can have a vibrant garden by better understanding soil levels, plant composition, bed position, and good gardening practices.
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